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6 Key B2B Ecommerce Trends For 2021

Ecommerce has seen incredible growth in recent years. However, in 2020 we learned two very important things:

  1. You can't predict everything when making plans to grow your B2B ecommerce business, even with the most brilliant minds working for you and the most expensive ecommerce solutions available;
  2. A pandemic can change the world in both good and bad ways, but if your B2B ecommerce business has always had a strategy to constantly grow by learning and adapting, you can even prosper in these challenging times.

So, in a rapidly changing world, here are the six most important B2B ecommerce trends to consider when planning your online sales strategy in 2021 and beyond.

1. B2B Online Marketplaces Will Grow Even More

The COVID-19 pandemic "clicked fast-forward" on the digital transformation. A 2020 analysis published by McKinsey & Company states that "B2B decision-makers globally say that online and remote selling is as effective as in-person engagement," and that "70-80% of them prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service".

The question you and your team should be asking yourselves is the one your buyers are asking in amazement: 

When will your B2B company go online? 

Even more, B2B buyers, as well as B2B sellers used to doing business online are asking: 

When will you join an online marketplace?

As the research conducted by WBR Insights, Mirakl, and Oracle found, "87% of business buyers across all age ranges are making business purchases on online marketplaces".

The usage of B2B online marketplaces is growing and, even though some businesses are avoiding them, B2B buyers and procurement specialists working for big retailers find it easier to shop in one place where they can easily search the products and compare the prices from different wholesalers. 

The fact that Amazon and Alibaba, as the biggest online marketplaces in the world, are expanding from B2C ecommerce into B2B ecommerce, should be a clear sign that wholesalers must strengthen their online presence, transform their ecommerce sites for a better user experience, and also use all the benefits of online marketplaces available. 

2. Digital B2B Buyers' Rising Expectations

More and more, B2B buyers want:

  • quality customer experience while shopping
  • smooth access to everything they need
  • all the necessary information and functionalities to successfully finish their buying process in just a few clicks
  • quick and user-friendly buying experience
  • all the possible payment methods available 
  • easy to use checkout.

It is not only as easy to "just shift" to digital platforms, but your B2B business must also adopt digital strategies of selling.

Like old-school offline retailers would say — pricing is king. Not much has changed with the millennials running the show (as online business owners as well as B2B customers). But, when your B2B ecommerce becomes a part of an online marketplace, with many wholesalers and distributors present with their competitive products and prices, being constantly aware of your business environment, and having the customer expectations in mind all the time is "the queen to the said king".

Dutch B2B ecommerce and B2C ecommerce software company Sana Commerce conducted a survey which states that millennials only want to talk to a sales representative after they have thoroughly researched the solution. Almost 50% of all B2B buyers use the internet to search for information, solutions, and suppliers. 

Also, Demand Gen Reports’ B2B buyers survey found that 67% of B2B buyers want easy access to pricing, 64% want easy access to content without registration forms and 66% want websites that show expertise and speak directly to industry needs.

3. Quicker And More Personalized Customer Experience

B2B customers expect fast shipping like B2C ecommerce companies provide. Even more so, when someone's ecommerce sales rely on how quickly they can deliver goods to their customers, they are sure to choose a B2B ecommerce platform that won't slow them down. If the COVID-19 pandemic taught B2B companies anything, it is that when the product is needed it is always needed without delay. It is surely the first step when building a good customer experience. 

A survey conducted by Smarter HQ Company specialized in developing personalization platforms for businesses, reports that 72% of customers only engage with personalized messaging and 69% of B2B buyers are willing to pay more for an experience fit to their unique needs.

What Is The Primary Objective Of Personalization?

The primary objective of personalization is to drive more efficiency throughout the B2B ecommerce cycle making the customer journey easy and smooth. Also, as no two customers are the same in B2C ecommerce business, the same applies in B2B business. Every customer must have a relevant message catering to their needs and to reassure them that you understand them. 

How To Become A B2B Selling Force To Be Reckoned With?

The aspect that every B2B company should keep in mind when developing their platform for a more personalized approach is that every customer should be able to easily browse through the site and find what they need. If you implement guided selling by helping your customer through the buying process so that they can make a good purchase decision, you'll surely become a B2B selling force to be reckoned with. 

4. Content Is The Real Challenge

Like I stated before, when you are developing your buying processes to meet your buyer's needs, always consider enhancing a personalized experience for everyone buying goods from you.

Investing in a good ERP system is more than a trend in 2021, it is a must for every serious B2B business with growth plans! Making your operations more automated and accessible to your employees is making them more available to be there for the customers and devote themselves to the products and selling. 

In 2021, conducting digital transformation with mobile-first in mind is a "technical issue" that is implied, because B2B buyers, as well as B2C customers, use mobile devices when they're looking for products. The responsive design of your ecommerce site is a must and a mobile app is always a good idea if you're ready to invest in designing one that has everything for the best buying experience.

The Real Challenge Of 2021 Is To Make Dedicated Content To B2B Decision-Makers. 

According to a survey conducted by Isoline, 53% of B2B buyers find video and video chat as the most useful forms of content, followed by case studies. But in the age where Augmented Reality (AR) is building up to become "the new normal", it is no surprise is that 38% of B2B buyers seek AR options. Here are 11 content marketing strategies you can utilize for ecommerce brand building.

5. Millennials Are Becoming The Largest B2B Buying Demographic

The research conducted by TrustRadius states that millennials are the largest B2B buying demographic with 73% of them are involved in B2B purchasing decisions. Also, you should have in mind that 56% of millennials expect same-day delivery.

As IBM Institute for Business Value in its report calling the millennials the new decision-makers stating also that "millennials, even more than Gen X or Baby Boomers, prize a hassle-free, omnichannel client experience personalized to their specific needs". 

"They want data, speed, and trusted advisors who are eager to collaborate", says IBM's report.

6. Analytics, Data, Machine Learning, And AI

Undoubtedly, the four most important terms of 2021 for B2B ecommerce are analytics, data, machine learning, and AI.

Even though B2B companies are a bit behind B2C companies when it comes to analytics tools, this year will be the game-changer when it comes to investing in advanced data analysis. The reason is simple — B2B businesses have finally realized the benefit of data when it comes to dealing with the challenges of building a consistent customer experience.

So, the use of analytics tools, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine learning will be quickly developing all through 2021, and in the years to follow, as B2B companies are finding their way in getting to know their B2B customers even better. 

Magazine "Forbes," wrote in their article "AI In B2B ECommerce: The Challenges And Alternatives" that "for B2B ecommerce businesses, AI can be a tool for greater personalization, improved decision-making ability, and gaining a competitive advantage.

Questions To Ask Yourself

A few thought starters for all you current and future B2B ecommerce wizards out there:

Your B2B Ecommerce Business Is Barely Working Online (If That's Even Possible In 2021)? 

Well, wake up and wake up fast! B2B ecommerce might have a few challenges and need investment, constant learning, and development, but it is also the best opportunity to grow your business and to reach greater numbers of potential customers. 

Do You Quickly Adapt And Shift Your B2B Ecommerce Business? 

If we've learned anything in 2020 it is that anything can happen and you should be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances. Learning fast and shifting when is necessary so that your business can endure and maybe even thrive. That is the trick of the best of ecommerce out there — follow the heartbeat of your customer, improve your platform constantly, and evolve with the market. 

Did You Find Your B2B Ecommerce Mojo Yet?

If you had old-school mojo in the era when online seemed to you like a distant future or just another way to present your products; if you had regular customers and made profits — this means you have it in you. But you must be faster than lightning if you want to continue to work with digital natives who are your B2B customers right now. 

Final Thoughts

Good luck with your B2B ecommerce business in 2021. Make sure to subscribe to The Ecomm Manager newsletter for more insights on trends in the eCommerce world. 

Related read: 6 proven ecommerce marketing strategies.

By Katarina Milovanović

Digital marketing specialist with vast experience of working in media, marketing, ecommerce, and advertising industry. Always interested in exploring, learning, and sharing cool ideas with the world. Passionate about everything digital, writing, movies, and music. Believes in imagination.

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